Why Winning Matters and Losing Stinks

By: Keith

Yes, yes, it’s also important to play fair and be a good sport; not enough can be said about winning in the right way – the gracious and honorable way. However, in the end and despite the popular liberal view that merely participating is worthy of equal praise, winning really does matter. And, it matters because winning begets more winning, and life cobbled together is nothing more than a series of trials through which a person can either pass confidently or stumble. If you want to make it through life with any degree of success, you must know how to be a winner. Athletic and academic competition is an outward expression of the pride we take in our lives and what we are willing to do to keep moving forward. If a person can demonstrate that he can win a staged competition, he will be better prepared to face the unrelenting vagaries life throws his way. Conversely, losing stinks and creates a mental impediment to success.

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The Danger of Repeated Failure

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Even the greatest winners experience losing streaks. Nobody wins all the time. However, unlike the aforementioned greatest among us, most people are too mentally weak to sustain prolonged losing streaks. It’s this fact that makes losing dangerous and why it is vitally important to work hard enough in our lives so that winning becomes evenly distributed among the losses. Confronted with the reality that we are failures (because everybody is a failure to some degree) most people fold – and from then on, regardless of actual ability, they mark themselves as beaten. They stop trying to win because they believe they don’t deserve it or just wouldn’t do well even if they did try. They’ll say things like “I’m no good.” or “I’ll probably lose anyway, but I’ll give it a try.” Yeah, right. Anybody who talks like that is asking to be beaten. The word try is added as a weak little afterthought, nothing more.

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It’s easy for a person to protect his ego by saying competition doesn’t matter. But, what are the chances that the person who refuses to compete and compete with passion will ever rise up to challenge anybody or anything in any life situation? Non participation might be acceptable to some folks; a lot of people who lack the will to win are perfect friendly and amenable. I’m not saying they’re worth less than the rest of us. In fact, there are plenty of people who are genuinely content to watch the sun rise and set everyday without engaging in the complication of competition. That’s fine, and the goal of doing nothing is still a goal, but I’m saying that I wouldn’t rely on any of them for anything which I consider critical or important. If you want to live your life as an interesting painting on the wall, that’s fine, but paintings don’t get asked to play outside or participate in meaningful debates.

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Invest In Winning

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I’m thinking specifically of children now. Most of my readers already know of the importance I place on personal accomplishments and athletic/academic excellence. To not take advantage of the raw power locked up in our minds and bodies is a disservice to the evolutionary process that afforded us the privilege of existence in the first place. Nobody wants to go through life without accomplishments. It would be like having millions of dollars in the bank yet living in a cardboard box because you refuse to acknowledge that you have a bank account even though you get a bank statement every month in the mail. We are all born with some potential. To not express that potential, whether it be artistic, academic or athletic, shows that we are not worthy of our incomprehensibly complex and unique genetic arrangements. It took millions of years to produce someone like you and your kids. Don’t blow it. And, if you do screw it up for yourself (I don’t think it’s ever too late to make something of yourself), make sure the same doesn’t happen to your kids. Teach them that they are worthy of winning and inculcate in them a culture that isn’t shy about expressing it.

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Never say Never

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Have you ever caught yourself telling your kid to be realistic? Have you ever discouraged him from an endeavor because you don’t want him to be disappointed with failure? Well, don’t do that, dummy! You think you’re protecting him from pain, and there’s a chance you are; but what’s worse is the damage being done to his developing sense of confidence – the confidence he’ll need to make mistakes and get back up again over and over until he actually does become a success. You’re teaching your kid to settle for something less than first place before competition even begins. Even with healthy confidence, first place is rare. Winners don’t approach competition with doubt. They know they’re going to win, even if they don’t. Sounds strange, but that’s how it works. Doubt is a mental infection, spreading insidiously through the psyche and sabotaging any possibility of victory. Statistically your kid probably won’t make it all the way to the top. However, putting any notion in his head that he isn’t as worthy as anybody else is just wrong.

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The bottom line is this: Life is hard.  It’ll knock you down again and again (sounding like Rocky now). If you stay down you lose. If you get up but think you’ll get knocked down again, you also lose. You have to get up, bloody and beaten, and be just as confident of victory as you were before the first punch was thrown.

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It’s an outdated book with a lot of wacky, pseudo science nonsense, but I highly suggest reading Peak Performance by Charles A. Garfield, Ph.D. Yes, it’s a self help book, and self help books are typically useless. However, the 30% of this one that is worth reading is REALLY worth reading. What he says about the importance of mental training is quite enlightening.

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3 Responses to “Why Winning Matters and Losing Stinks”
  1. Dennis Yu August 14, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    The irony of competition is that it’s so hard to win that most people don’t even try– which makes it that much easier for those who do. And those who ignore the naysayers actually have a great shot at winning, provided they’re persistent. I look forward to amazing things from Neil Wilcox as a tennis star and good person.

  2. Odd Dad August 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Your post was spot on. I hate the mentality that just participating is enough. Sure, winning isn’t everything, but it’s a hell of a lot better than losing. And kids need to know that they are going to win sometimes and lose sometimes. The most important thing is to teach them to do their best, to strive to win even when the odds are against them. If they don’t realize early in life that life is indeed a contest and that the contest rules aren’t even fair, they won’t be able to deal with what life dishes out. Thank you for writing about this. It needs to be said.

  3. Blogging Tips August 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    No one goes out to lose. We all know that. But having the “I must win” at all costs isn’t acceptable. It’s about giving it 100% every time, leaving it all out there and being happy with your own performance.

    Winning is a part of life, and you have to also be a gracious winner, as well as a gracious loser.

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